Anyone who saw the violence, casual abuse and hatred inflicted on children inside Medway secure training centre that was revealed by Panorama would be shocked. Even I was horrified, after years of hearing about high use of violence by staff to control children, broken bones and distress. The question now is, what are we going to do?
There are three secure training centres, all currently run by G4S although Rainsbrook will transfer to MTCNovo later this year. The justice secretary has appointed Charlie Taylor to take a look at the youth justice system including the way we lock children up. I am assuming he will find that prisons that hold the majority of boys are dreadful places, and, he will have to make recommendations to change the STCs following the public outcry over abuse and the consequent police investigation.
My worry is that the STCs will continue to exist when they are rotten to the core. The very concept is flawed.
They are the epitome of political expediency and ego. Politicians always want to be seen to do something, even if it is the wrong thing. This is what happened when STCs were invented by Kenneth Clarke in response to a media scare.
The buildings are not suitable for children. They are too big to care for highly vulnerable children. They are closed and secretive, as we have seen with the only filming had to be secret. They incarcerate children who do not need security but need care and support. They detain many children who are remanded but will not get a custodial sentence.¬† Many of the children who are sentenced are detained only for short periods.
It is not a question of who runs them, the legal framework that incarcerates the children is wrong. Swapping providers will not solve the problem.
The reason I am writing this is because I hear that that is exactly what is being considered. Charities have always resisted running penal institutions as they appreciate that punishment is not a charitable objective. I hear that a Spanish based charity that runs a string of child jails is bidding to take over the STCs here.
I have seen these places in Spain, and I was not impressed. To begin with, the Spanish government is not transparent when it comes to the number of children in custody. The centres I saw involved the deprivation of liberty but the Spanish government claims (see page 71 of the most recent Council of Europe figures) that there are 0 children held in penal institutions. In fact, it seems that hundreds, possibly thousands of children are held in custody in Spain.
The custody in question may be branded as ‚Äėeducational‚Äô but the children held in these centres were compelled to be there. Dress it up as you will, that means their liberty is being deprived and these are penal institutions. The educational facilities I did see were not particularly developed. There were very few books on show, for example, and no provision for art, music or science. They are mixed gender facilities and I did manage to extract an admission from one of the jails that at least two girls had got pregnant. They didn‚Äôt seem to know what had happened to the babies or the girls.
There was a healthier atmosphere between the staff and the children than in the STCs. This was aided by a regime which sees many of the children released during the day. The Spanish system locks some of the children up all the time but allows some of them to go to school during the day, or attend outdoor activities. But this raises an important question. If these children were safe enough to spend all day in school with other children, then why remove them from their families and punish them with incarceration in the first place? In fact, I was left concerned that the ‚Äėsemi-open‚Äô regime was potentially sucking in Spanish children to custody when they did not need to be there. I come back to my point that the Spanish government claims no children are in penal custody at all.
It would be seductive to pretend that a new way of locking up children will be better.
The answer must lie in closing the prisons. No child should be in a prison. We should close the STCs, they are proven to harm children. For the very few children who are so damaged and damaging that close custody is needed, we already have small secure units that have a track record of success. We don‚Äôt need to import failing systems from other countries, we have our own way of caring for children that works, let‚Äôs use it.
This is the second in what will be regular bulletins about the Howard League‚Äôs legal work to help children and young adults in custody.
We received calls on our confidential legal advice line relating to 80 individual young people in December, fewer than normal because of the holidays. The most common issues were prison punishments and adjudications, resettlement, complaints, segregation, poor treatment and transfers.
Fifteen of the calls related to children and 41 were about young adults. People sometimes call the Howard League about adults in custody or adult prisoners call, but we only deal with young people so we normally recommend a more suitable service.¬† Just over half of the calls related to people from BME backgrounds.
We received requests for help from four young adults who had been held in segregation in excess of 42 days (six weeks, a long time for a teenager to be locked in a cell alone with nothing to do.) Three of them had been segregated following a large fight on the prison wing.¬† All three denied any involvement in the fight and were not present when it took place. They were informed by the prison that there was intelligence to indicate that they had been involved. They were not charged with a breach of prison rules or referred to the police.
We assisted the young people with complaints, contacted NOMS at a senior level to inform them of our concerns, and inquired as to whether or not the obligatory 42 day review had taken place. It is very worrying that despite the Supreme Court’s concerns last summer about the irreversible damage that can be caused after just 15 days of isolation, the new system allows for segregation well beyond that point. The legal team will continue to challenge this.
We have a high number of calls requesting representation for children and young adults referred by prison governors to district judges for disciplinary matters. The overwhelming majority of these are from Aylesbury prison. It is not a coincidence that Aylesbury inflicted the highest number of additional days of imprisonment of any prison in the country last year ‚Äď 9,428 days or nearly 26 years, despite it being only a medium sized prison holding teenagers and young adults.
We receive calls for help with children and young people who are recalled to prison. We assisted a 15 year old boy who was recalled for breach of curfew; his licence conditions included a six month curfew which he complied with. Following his being the victim of an unprovoked attack outside his care home, resulting in his being hospitalised, he was put back on curfew for another three months at the same address. He was so concerned for his safety at the care home that he would only return at night when he thought he had to; despite this, he was recalled for breaching the curfew.
The Howard League advice line is the only confidential legal service available to children and young adults in custody for help about their incarceration. We are very busy.
Over 2,000 years of additional imprisonment were imposed over the past five years on people who misbehaved in prison.
Prisons operate disciplinary hearing called adjudications where allegations of rule breaking are dealt with. The Howard League published research last year based on just one year‚Äôs figures which showed that in 2014 over 160,000 extra days were imposed. Andy Slaughter MP, shadow justice minister, asked a Parliamentary Question that elicited the figures for the last five years. This showed that a total of 768,518 days had been imposed from 2010 to 2014.
This is a punishment system out of control, responding to a prison estate that is out of control.
The statistics show that individual prisons under particular stress resort to excessive use of disciplinary procedures.
Aylesbury prison that holds teenagers and young adults had 25,379 days, almost 70 years, imposed.
Pentonville prison had over 20,801 extra days imposed, or 57 years.
Private prisons are extremely punitive.
Despite G4S Oakwood only being fully operational for 2013 and 2014 it had 8,937 days imposed in those two years.
G4S run Parc prison in Wales imposed 16,800 extra days.
Sodexo took over Northumberland prison and in three years 14,291 days were imposed.
Until 2002 it was governors who had the power to impose additional days of imprisonment on prisoners deemed to have misbehaved and on average around 80,000 extra days were awarded. A legal battle resulted in this power being removed and a new system of external adjudication was established with district judges hearing cases. Since then, the number of days imposed has exploded.
District judges are passing sentence on prisoners for misbehaving with no accountability for the outcome or consequences, nor are they taking into account the circumstances of the prison which is often grossly overcrowded and under-staffed resulting in disgusting conditions and prisoners in distress.
The system needs to change.
A senior Howard League lawyer was in Aylesbury prison yesterday helping teenagers who had been naughty deal with the punishment system.
A bit of background first. Aylesbury prison holds young men who have committed serious offences and are facing long periods in prison. This should be a settled prison but sadly it isn‚Äôt. The prison suffered a staff cut of more than a third, and this destabilised the establishment so much that Ministers in desperation reversed the decision and allowed prisons to re-recruit. In order to deal with the lack of staff in Aylesbury, staff were shipped in from other prisons for short stints.
The prison has been on a restricted regime for a couple of years. This means that the teenage boys are locked up most of the time. The consequence is a volatile prison fetid with resentment and violence.
The prison authorities respond with excessive punishments. Aylesbury used the adjudication process to impose 9,428 days of extra prison time on its boys last year, despite there only being 418 of them. That is nearly 26 years’ extra prison time.
Howard League lawyers represent boys who are facing excessive punishments for behaviour that in the community would not concern the justice system.
One boy had an exemplary record, working and obeying the rules. When his mum got ill and went into hospital he wanted to call her. Remember, mothers cannot call into their sons in prison; no families can call in. Prisoners are allowed to call only specified phone numbers agreed in advance on the expensive pay phones on the landings. So he got hold of an illicit mobile to talk to his mum in hospital. He was caught and charged with three crimes: ¬†possession of a phone, a charger and a battery. He was taken off his job which meant he could not earn any money and would not be able to phone his mum even when she got home. He was put onto a punitive basic regime that meant he hardly ever got out of his cell. He was then taken through the adjudication process and the district judge imposed extra days of imprisonment.
Yesterday, the district judge imposed 46 extra days of imprisonment on boys for misbehaving on just our cases. There were more than 30 adjudications before the independent adjudicator so it is likely that many, many more days were awarded.
This is a cycle of abuse. The prison is caging boys; they misbehave; they get more punishment. They also cut and harm themselves. And some young men in prisons get so desperate they take their own lives.
Over Christmas prisons are going to be very sad.
There was an article last week in the Guardian lauding the Serco run prison, Thameside. It only showed what Thameside wanted you to see. Howard League lawyers have been representing young men, including some teenagers, held in the prison for several years. The in-depth knowledge about how prisoners we work with there are treated does not paint a very happy story. In fact, we uncovered an unlawful punishment regime set up by Serco that meant prisoners were being placed in solitary confinement for weeks on end.
The prison management was concerned about high levels of violence and so made up a ‚Äėviolence reduction policy‚Äô that included placing young men into segregation without any of the normal safeguards.
The Howard League lawyers successfully challenged the unlawful policy at Thameside and got it stopped.
Luke (not his real name) was a vulnerable 18 year old young person with complex needs and vulnerabilities. He spent 35 days in segregation as a consequence of the ‚Äėviolence reduction policy‚Äô. Whilst he was in segregation he remained locked up in his cell for more than 23 hours each day. Staff would look at him through the peep hole in his cell door and note down what he was doing. This shocking record illustrates surveillance without compassion. It is a verbatim account of what staff wrote:
00.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Appears asleep
01.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Appears asleep
02.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Appears to be asleep
03.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Appears to be asleep
04.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Appears to be asleep
05.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Appears to be asleep
06.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Appears to be asleep
07.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Appears to be asleep
08.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Asleep breathing noted
08.55¬†¬†¬†¬† Appears asleep
09.00¬†¬†¬†¬† No issues
09.45¬†¬†¬†¬† Laying in bed appears to be asleep
10.20¬†¬†¬†¬† DM rounds ‚Äď No issues raised
10.40¬†¬†¬†¬† Used CMS no issues
11.40 ¬†¬†¬† Lunch given
12.20¬†¬†¬†¬† Watching TV
13.20¬†¬†¬†¬† Laying in bed appears asleep
14.20¬†¬†¬†¬† Laying in bed no issues
15.05¬†¬†¬†¬† Laying in bed no issues
16.00 ¬†¬†¬† Laying in bed no issues
17.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Dinner given
18.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Sat on desk
19.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Walking in cell
20.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Sat on bed
21.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Seated by window ledge
22.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Laying in bed
23.00¬†¬†¬†¬† Laying in bed
The policy authorised prisoners who were suspected of being involved in two acts of violence or bullying to be placed in the segregation unit for a mandatory minimum period of 28 days, with the opportunity of further segregating the prisoner beyond 28 days at seven days intervals. The policy also made provision for prisoners who were returned from the segregation unit to normal location to be placed on basic level on the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme for a mandatory minimum period of 28 days.
There are normally stringent procedural safeguards to protect prisoners who are segregated in recognition of the increased risk to the mental health of prisoners in prolonged isolation. This is why, prisoners can only be segregated for specific reasons and in accordance with the prison rules. The policy at Thameside operated outside these rules.
Prison guidance is also clear that prisoners who are downgraded to basic level on the IEP scheme must have their downgraded status reviewed within seven days of being downgraded.
The Howard League made a formal complaint to the Serco run prison about Luke‚Äôs treatment and the lawfulness of the policy, but did not receive any assurance that the policy would be withdrawn.
It was only when the Howard League issued judicial review proceedings challenging the lawfulness of the policy that the prison and the Secretary of State for Justice agreed it was unlawful and the private prison withdrew it.
The Howard League welcomes the access to prisons afforded to journalists recently. It is right that the media should see and report what happens in prisons. But, there is a responsibility to see all sides of prison life and to present a balanced picture based on the lived experiences of prisoners and staff.
Every couple of years I find myself wearily blogging about the latest round of cuts to secure children‚Äôs homes and once again the Youth Justice Board (YJB) has announced further reductions.
Superficially, the latest announcement that 21 more beds will be lost from April next year sounds insignificant. The YJB press release benignly states: ‚ÄúThe welcome reduction in the number of children in custody has allowed us to review the current provision of secure children‚Äôs homes places to better match supply and demand‚ÄĚ. So what‚Äôs the problem?
Although the Howard League, of course, welcomes the reductions in the number of children imprisoned in England and Wales, there is still much further to go to ensure that only the few who are genuinely so troubled and troubling are held in custody. These children should be held in small, local units, with highly-trained staff where their well-being is at the centre ‚Äď this is what secure children‚Äôs homes do. Yes, it costs more money to care for and rehabilitate children rather than locking them behind a door for 23 hours a day, but this is an investment for all of us ‚Äď it is to our communities these children will return on their release.
And it is because they cost more that they have been the repeated victim of the YJB scythe ‚Äď in 2003 they contracted with 22 secure children‚Äôs homes to provide 297 places. There will be just 117 places in eight secure children‚Äôs homes come April for the 1,000 children in custody. The majority of children will continue to be imprisoned in young offender institutions where there has been a rapid decline in safety levels.
The YJB‚Äôs claim that decisions have been made to ‚Äúbetter align supply and demand‚ÄĚ is simply untrue. The latest round of cuts means that there will no longer be any secure children‚Äôs homes beds in London, the South East and the East of England, yet 45 per cent of children in custody are from these regions. If the YJB deems that they are ‚Äėtoo vulnerable‚Äô to be sent to one of the failing battery-farm prisons, they will be sent hundreds of miles away. This limits contact with families and undermines resettlement ‚Äď vital components in improving life chances.
It is all very well to sit behind a desk in Whitehall and assure yourself that the latest procurement exercise has been a success. But for those who made this decision, I‚Äôd like to ask you this: how would you explain this to the mum of a 15 year old too afraid to leave their cell for weeks because violence is so rife? Or a mum from Kent travelling to see her 14 year old son in Leeds because she wants to give him a hug? No matter what they have done, we are talking about children. And the latest cuts are in nobody‚Äôs interests other than some short-term savings for a government quango.
Last month, a typical month, we received calls on the legal advice line relating to 96 children and young people in custody. The majority of the calls are directly from young people but some of the initial contacts come from advocates or prison staff asking for our help to get safe resettlement arrangements for the young person who is about to be released.
The Howard League legal advice line is the only immediate access to legal advice for children and young people in custody. They have no access to the internet and are restricted on who they may phone. The advice line is free and confidential. I will be reporting regularly on the issues arising.
The calls this month related to a wide range of problems:
Criminal defence or appeal
Treatment or conditions
Misc/other (e.g. not related to a prison law matter, police matters, civil claims)
And they came from Feltham, Aylesbury, Parc, Hindley, Cookham Wood, Wetherby, Portland, Deerbolt, Werrington, Thameside, Isis, Moorland, Swinfen Hall, the secure training centres and some from young people recently released who are struggling in the community.
A 16-year-old boy in Cookham Wood prison who was segregated for approximately two months called to ask for help. He was limited to one hour of exercise per day, had to have his meals in-cell, was permitted 30 minutes to shower and 10 minutes for phone calls. The Howard League is battling away, trying to stop children being placed in segregation.
Older boys also call about serious issues:
An 18-year-old in Aylesbury prison was restrained by staff after allegedly threatening violence. We have examined the adjudication paperwork, which states that he was threatening ‚Äėwhen walking towards staff’. He was then strip-searched in the presence of five officers with no reasons being given. The officer who instigated the assault has been named by number of advice-line callers as having assaulted them/used excessive force against them. We are pursuing this matter through the complaints system.
Our lawyers and caseworkers carry a huge caseload, working with the young people to get the best outcome for them and to show that the law can work for them.
Today the Chief Inspector of Prisons published another report on the treatment of children and young people in Feltham prison.
The legal team at the Howard League has dealt with calls for help relating to 100 children and young people in Feltham in the last twelve months. Our experience of working with boys in Feltham is that it is a dangerous place for children, that the jail struggles to keep children safe and that it is failing in this most basic of responsibilities. The inspection report pretty much supports this view, only saying that staff are doing their best.
Boys have indeed told us about staff who are helpful and kind. One boy who suffered from epilepsy told us how staff helped him and had his cell adapted.
Yet, we have had far too many calls about lack of safety and the risk of violence young people suffer. Violence appears to be a fact of daily life. We have worked with children who purposefully misbehave so that they will be put into segregation away from the violence they fear.
Putting children into solitary confinement appears to be the management tool deployed in an attempt to contain the violence. Some children are put through the formal disciplinary procedures but others are locked in their cells without due process and often no understanding of what is happening to them and why.
We know about:
A 17-year-old who was segregated for eight days, being let out of his cell for only 30 minutes a day. He told our staff he didn‚Äôt know why he was being held in solitary and he was sinking into depression.
A 17-year-old locked in his cell with no contact with any other young person, and with no idea of what he had to do to get back to a normal regime.
A 17-year-old locked in his cell for two weeks and only allowed out for 30 minutes a day to have a shower and make one phone call. He had no education and told our lawyers he was getting very depressed.
We were so concerned about one 17-year-old who was routinely segregated for long periods that we referred the case to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.
My legal director and I are meeting the Chair of Hounslow Safeguarding Children Board on Friday. The Howard League was so worried by the use of solitary confinement and physical restraint on children that we asked the Board to conduct an inquiry.
The bottom line is that children are not safe in Feltham. The courts must stop sending children to a place where they are at significant and imminent risk of violence.
Since the public probation service was broken up and a large part handed to 21 private companies, the Probation Inspectorate has looked at how the service is developing.
HMI Probation published a report titled Transforming Rehabilitation ‚Äď Early Implementation 3: an Independent Inspection of the Arrangements for Offender Supervision yesterday. The report relates to findings from inspections undertaken between March and May 2015. Inspectors focused on work undertaken at the point of sentence and allocation by the National Probation Service (NPS), work undertaken by the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the NPS to manage offenders, and the interfaces between the two organisations in respect of enforcement and risk review.
There are problems with communication, risk assessment, sentence planning, record keeping and training. Most of the concerns relate to the CRCs. Some are very serious, concerning the protection of children and victims.
Quite a lot of the report is technical but it is important because if the systems fail, people can get hurt, and hurt very badly.
The new structure is incredibly complex, bureaucratic and in some areas, downright impenetrable. This does not help when the public or victims want to know how people who have harmed them are being managed.
The Inspectorate found that in several instances performance had deteriorated since the previous early implementation inspection (so the excuse that everything is bedding in and will only get better will not wash)
I have drawn on some of the key findings. It makes grim reading.
- Communication between the National Probation Service and the Community Rehabilitation Companies was improving‚Ä¶. There was, however, little discussion between the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies over appropriate proposals for sentence reports.
- There were still too many cases without a sufficient Risk of Serious Harm screening, and where necessary a full analysis of the risk of serious harm, in place before allocation.
- Investigation of Risk of Serious Recidivism scores showed that a number were inaccurate, when compared with our inspector‚Äôs calculation, and that a few cases were being allocated incorrectly. Some had misinterpreted the guidance and either ignored relevant information or placed it in the wrong section of the tool. This led to some cases being allocated to the Community Rehabilitation Companies when they should have been with the National Probation Service. There were no quality assurance processes in place to improve the completion of the Risk of Serious Recidivism tool.
- Due to the demands to see service users quickly, there was a shift towards group induction, particularly within the Community Rehabilitation Companies. This was unpopular with a number of offender managers who felt that individual inductions resulted in better engagement. We found no evidence, however, to suggest that individual induction was more effective than group induction.
- Most cases were assigned to an identified offender manager within one working day of sentence. Fewer than half of the cases we inspected, however, had their first appointments with their offender managers within five working days of sentence.
- The Offender Assessment System likelihood of reoffending assessment was sufficient in just over half of cases. Sentence plans were not always completed in good time and did not always address the factors relating to offending, or wider diversity issues and barriers to engagement.
- Many of the people supervised by a Community Rehabilitation Company had committed violent offences, or had been involved in domestic abuse. There were concerns about protecting children in a number of cases. Only two-thirds of Risk of Serious Harm screenings and half of full risk of harm analyses were sufficient. An effective risk management plan was in place in fewer than half of all relevant cases. Failure to assess accurately the risk of harm and then implement a plan to reduce it can lead to a focus on inappropriate work and to an increase in the harm an offender may pose.
- In too many cases the level of risk of serious of harm was not being identified or satisfactorily addressed. The following practice example highlights the importance of effective assessment; the inspector commented:
‚ÄúThe assessment was not sufficient, the offender manager failed to identify relevant previous behaviour, for example, sexual activity with a child under the age of 13 years who became pregnant as a result. The CAS and RSR were also factually incorrect – missing the sexual offence, it was not until the new alleged offence of sexual activity with a girl aged 14 years became known did the offender manager look into exploring previous behaviour and found the previous incidents. There was no evidence of initial checks with the police or children‚Äôs services‚ÄĚ.
- We judged there was an appropriate priority accorded to the safety of current and potential victims by CRC staff in 60% of relevant cases. In too many cases, offender managers had not recognised or planned effectively to manage the issues concerning current or potential victims.
- To breach a case, the Community Rehabilitation Companies must produce a breach pack and pass the case to the National Probation Service for prosecution. There are a number of timescales which have to be met and these should be recorded clearly on the nDelius system. Recording was not clear in half of the breach cases we inspected and this made it difficult to determine if the required timescales had been met.
- While all NPS Local Delivery Units had processes in place to check if offenders were known to the relevant CRC, there appeared to be little consultation pre-sentence about suitable sentencing proposals. CRC staff recognised that the requirement to present an increasing number of reports on the day of sentence left little time for NPS report writers to liaise with CRC staff.
- Some NPS staff expressed concerns that they were becoming less knowledgeable about the services and types of supervision provided through the CRCs and that this would lead to difficulties in making appropriate proposals. We found, however, that there was a clear proposal for an appropriate community sentence in nearly all the cases inspected.
- Following assessment, we found that initial sentence planning was completed in time in just over half of the cases. Appropriate objectives were set in a similar number of cases. There had been a sufficient assessment of community factors and social support in two-thirds of those cases, and the same proportion had been signposted or referred to relevant providers.
- We judged there was an appropriate priority accorded to the safety of current and potential victims by CRC staff in 60% of relevant cases. In too many cases, offender managers had not recognised or planned effectively to manage the issues concerning current or potential victims.
Now you have ploughed your way through this, you will see that the Inspectors are concerned primarily with process. I look forward to the day when they look at the services to see if they are any good.
I was blown away by Michael Gove‚Äôs speech to the Howard League AGM.
It was not so much what he said, and I will come to that later, it was the principles upon which he will be basing his policies. He talked about redemption and opportunities, he talked about tempering justice with mercy, giving people a sense of possibility and hope. This is language I have never heard from any of the many justice secretaries I have worked with. The message for the public, political leaders and people delivering the criminal justice system is that it should be seen not as the route to damnation but as an interlude in a life that has been damaged and has created damage, with light and forgiveness at the end.
He is a hard-headed politician and of course, is no softie. He said that some people who commit crimes are moral actors and do make decisions in the full knowledge that what they do is wrong and harmful. He also said that many are not autonomous actors as they have emotional, moral and financial poverty. These people do not have the self-mastery to have benefited from school education and other opportunities. He said there is a huge spectrum of people in prisons.
His most poignant message was when he talked about children in care who end up in the penal system. He said that these children had not had the affection and the love that they deserve.
This moral framework for policy choices augurs well for decision-making in the future when hard choices will need to be made.
And yet, there were some items of concern in his speech. He re-floated the idea of closing Victorian prisons and building airy new prisons. I think this is a non-starter.
Firstly, it is not clear who owns the land on which the Victorian prisons sit and you can‚Äôt sell what you don‚Äôt own.
Secondly, it is not that the Victorian prisons are badly designed, they are just overcrowded. Oxford prison has been turned into a very swanky hotel so it is possible to make the buildings sanitary and functional and they are anyway quite beautiful. So the problem is not the buildings, it is the overcrowding.
Thirdly, which egg will come first? If he closes the Victorian prisons and reduces prison numbers what is the point of building expensive new prisons that will just encourage the courts to use them. If he builds new prisons before closing the Victorian jails, the new ones will fill up and then he will have both new and old.
I was encouraged that the Secretary of State responded to a question from the audience about reducing prison numbers positively. That is the way forward. It is sensible, it is safe and it is cost-effective.